April 30, 2013

Maintaining Energy Efficiency and Driving Future Opportunities

Through our experiences working with clients who have undergone energy efficiency programs such as retro-commissioning to improve their building performance, we have found that the efficiencies they have initially realized start to disappear within two to three years. The following are recommendations to assist in maintaining and protecting the gains in efficiency that were initially achieved.

Ongoing Energy Monitoring

All energy efficiency programs require ongoing monitoring to ensure that the reduction in energy consumption are continually maintained and possibly improved upon. Building Owners/Operators should be constantly comparing and analyzing their building energy profile with similar buildings verses their new energy baseline that was established post retro-commissioning  along with their actual/current energy usage. The purpose of which is to verify that the implemented energy strategies are successful, to establish a process to address any increase in energy usage and be able to set goals to find further energy efficiencies.

Common Causes that Diminish Implemented Energy Efficient Strategies

Preventative or Reactive Equipment Maintenance

The major cause we have found is poor or insufficient equipment maintenance for which in the end, costs more in repair and wasted energy consumption. Even though most building operations groups utilize computerized maintenance management systems, it’s very important to analyze the type of maintenance being conducted especially the ratio between preventative maintenance and reactive maintenance. An early indicator that your preventative maintenance efforts are insufficient or that other factors such as equipment operations are becoming an issue is when reactive maintenance is increasing. When this occurs, your energy efficiency levels are negatively impacted.

Building Automation Systems & Equipment Controls

It is very common that we find these systems overlooked and therefore, poorly maintained. Here are some tips in keeping these systems working for you and not against your bottom line:

– Alarm Settings: Are proper systems and temperature alarms in place and being acted upon? If not, there could be a lot going on that you are not aware of.

– Ongoing Verification & Calibration: This should be done seasonally as a minimum which would include temperature sensors, CO2 Sensors (which drift high!), valve operation, damper operation and control loop tuning. If any of these components are not reading or operating correctly, without a doubt, energy is being wasted and usually, your building occupant comfort complaints will increase which will increase your reactive maintenance levels.

– Building Occupancy: It’s imperative to constantly review your daily and weekly occupancy time schedules to ensure that they are correct and match the building usage. Close attention to temperature set points should always be maintained so that you are never over or under conditioning occupied areas.

Ongoing Building Operator Training

An extremely important item in maintaining or achieving greater energy efficiency. Without knowledgeable building operators, how can the building be operated correctly? Here are a few tips in making sure your staff are at their best:

– Establish an ongoing building operator training program for new and existing operators

–  Maintain and update all building operations manuals and keep them available for use and reference

– Establish a clear and manageable process in addressing systems alarms and building comfort complaints

– Establish a review process when set points are adjusted or when equipment operation is overridden

Achieving and maintaining energy efficiency is always an ongoing process, never a onetime accomplishment or effort. If you follow the basic tips noted above, not only will you maintain the current energy efficiency you have achieved but you will find further opportunities to improve upon it.

Why Commissioning